If I think I have been sexually harassed, or am part of a hostile environment, what should I do?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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You should tell the harasser to stop. Keep a written record of all incidents including what exactly happened, date, time, and the names of people that might have witnessed the incident(s). Consider going to the superior of the person harassing you. If you believe your employer is well-intentioned but unaware, and has a grievance or complaint procedure, it is often a good idea to use it. In fact, if you do not use the employer’s complaint process before going to court, you may not recover damages if you win. Make sure that any complaint that you do make is in writing, though, because if you are retaliated against without a paper trail it will be difficult to prove.

It is almost always a good idea to consult with a sexual harassment attorney who specializes in employment claims. Many attorneys provide free consultations for situation such as these and the attorney can give you specific guidance as to what you should be doing both to document your claim and to protect yourself against retaliation. Very often there are others who were similarly victims of sexual harassment who may want to join you.

The attorney sometimes may be able to informally complain and get the employer’s attention so the offending practice is stopped. In other cases, the attorney may help you prepare to file a complaint with the EEOC or an appropriate state agency. The attorney, unlike you, knows the ropes and can help you protect your rights should there ultimately be a court case.

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